Building its cardio drug portfolio, Amgen bags Dezima in $1.55B deal

Following hot on the heels of an FDA approval for its groundbreaking PCSK9 remedy for bad cholesterol, Amgen has struck a deal to buy in an experimental midstage LDL treatment in a $1.55 billion deal. Amgen ($AMGN) is acquiring Dutch biotech Dezima for $300 million up front and $1.25 billion in milestones, tackling another potential blockbuster franchise that has spurred billions of dollars in often frustrating research programs.

Amgen's primary interest is a midstage drug ID'd as TA-8995, an oral CETP inhibitor that has shown a marked ability to treat dyslipidemia--an asymptomatic disease in which serum lipid levels deviate from the normal level--by slashing levels of LDL-C by up to 48% while boosting healthy HDL.

Amgen's Sean Harper

"TA-8995 has demonstrated dramatic LDL-C lowering," said Sean Harper, the research chief at Amgen. "With a portfolio of TA-8995 and Repatha, our recently launched LDL-C lowering PCSK9 inhibitor, we will be able to offer more treatment options with different mechanisms of action and modes of administration across varying LDL-C levels and risk profiles."

Robert Bradway, chairman and chief executive officer at Amgen, also noted that this new drug fits into Amgen's cardio pipeline, which also recently produced the heart drug Corlanor (ivabradine), which most analysts expect will add only modest revenue for the big biotech. Repatha, though, is expected to go on to become a blockbuster, even as Amgen goes head to head with a rival therapy from Regeneron ($REGN) and Sanofi ($SNY).

Dezima in-licensed the drug from Mitsubishi Tanabe.

CETP inhibition has been a major field in biopharma, frustrating Roche ($RHHBY) and Pfizer ($PFE)--which spent $1 billion testing torcetrapib--while leading Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Merck ($MRK) to continue their pursuit of huge late-stage studies aimed at raising HDL. The companies hope these drugs will lower cardiovascular risks for a massive group of patients around the world, though the drugs that flopped for Roche and Pfizer actually raised risks. Eli Lilly (evacetrapib) and Merck (anacetrapib), though, insist that they have much better drugs that can be used safely.

Now the pharma giants have yet another contender to ponder from Amgen as they wrap their Phase III studies. Lilly's readout is expected next July.

- here's the release